Pell Grant Founder Dies

01.02.09 | FL News Team

A man whose name is synonymous with higher education in the United States has died.  Retired Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell died at his home in Newport early Thursday at the age of 90. During his 36 years in the Senate, Pell championed the college financial aid program that now bears his name.

After suffering the effects of Parkinson's disease for several years, the family released a statement saying that he "died peacefully in the presence of his wife Nuala and family members."

Aside from his achievements in higher education, Pell was respected internationally for his work as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a mentor to Vice-President-elect Joe Biden who called Pell "a man of extraordinary integrity, grace and decency."

Born the son of a wealthy New York Congressman, Pell moved to Newport when he was a child and attended Princeton and Columbia Universities and served in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Pell is survived by his wife of 64 years, a son and a daughter.  Two other children, a son and daughter, died in 1999 and 2006.